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Mt. Moriah was already considered highly sacred for several reasons. An ancient Semitic tradition stated that the bare rock atop the mount was held in the mouth of the serpent Tahum, and that this place was the intersection of the underworld and the upper world. It was also considered to be the site where Abraham had built an altar on which he prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac. At this same site, the patriarch Jacob gathered stone from the altar upon which his father Isaac was to be sacrificed, and using this stone as a pillow spent the night sleeping upon the rock. Upon waking from a stunning visionary dream, Jacob anointed the stone pillow with oil he had received from heaven and the stone then sank deep into the earth, to become the foundation stone of the great temple that would later be built by Solomon. This hallowed site is known as Bethel, meaning “Gate or House of Heaven.”

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